Uses and misuses of poststructuralism in educational research

Naomi Hodgson, Paul Standish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review


The use of poststructuralist thought in educational research is constrained by a tension between, on the one hand, what is considered to be its emancipatory and empowering potential and, on the other, a reluctance to be distracted from practical concerns and, hence, a fear of alienating the practitioner by speaking in terms of the theoretical. This leads to the sometimes superficial relationship that educational research has to ideas of this kind upon which it draws and of which it makes great claims. Orthodoxies exist within those areas of educational research that position themselves as counter to orthodox research practice, and these stifle the potential of the rethinking of thought that they seek. We take the use of the work of Michel Foucault in educational research as an example of this. We then show how the purported adoption of poststructuralist thought in relation to narrative research can lead to a form of research practice that fails adequately to recognize its basis in those very constructions of knowledge that poststructuralist thought has sought to criticize. If poststructuralist texts are to enable educational researchers to think differently, the ways in which they require an engagement with what may seem counter‐intuitive need to come to light. The work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari is used to show how the turn to the self in poststructuralist‐informed educational research might itself be turned to different ends.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-326
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Research & Method in Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2009


  • educational research
  • orthodoxy
  • Foucault
  • social justice
  • power


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